LAUNCH Competition Pivots to Accelerate Early-Stage Startups

LAUNCH: The UC Berkeley Startup Competition has pivoted.

With new eligibility requirements, LAUNCH is now a four-month accelerator designed to transform early-stage startups into fundable ventures.

“Historically, these competitions have been more business plan- and idea-oriented, but a large gap often exists between that early stage and fundability,” said Dan Schoening, MBA 16, who with Franklin Russell, MBA 16, co-chairs the competition.

“LAUNCH is designed to transform startups from the customer validation and prototype stage into truly fundable ventures,” he says.

Executive summaries for teams participating in LAUNCH, now in its 17th year, are due by Thursday, November 20.

The LAUNCH accelerator will be taught by top Berkeley-Haas leaders and faculty, including serial entrepreneur and Berkeley-Haas Lecturer Steve Blank, Lester Center for Entrepreneurship Executive Director André Marquis, and the newly-appointed Lester Center Associate Director Rhonda Shrader, both MBA 96.

Last year’s winning teams were awarded more than $50,000 in prizes and organizers expect substantial prize money this year as well.

Eligibility requirements for the program have changed. Teams applying for LAUNCH should have completed market validation and developed a prototype or Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Teams that have completed the Lean LaunchPad curriculum or the Bay Area National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps program run by the Lester Center are a good fit for LAUNCH, Schoening says.

In addition, at least one team member must be a current student, faculty member or staff member, or an alumnus of a University of California campus.

The accelerator begins with a two-day kickoff boot camp in early February that introduces topics including “Getting to Fundable,” “Advanced Customer Discovery,” and “Agile Development.”

Five sessions will follow, covering topics such as “Scalable Business Model Design,” “Startup Law: Incorporation, Intellectual Property, HR,” and “Startup Finance.”

Team selection for LAUNCH will be announced December 8, and boot camps and sessions will kick-off in February 2015. The program wraps up with a final one-day boot camp on April 29 that focuses on networking with partners and investors and “Scaling for Success.”  The LAUNCH semi-final and final round events will take place April 30 at Haas.

For more information about LAUNCH, click here. Application details are available here.

2014 LAUNCH winners